How We Celebrate Blues Music



A free public community event

MBS’s 1st Annual Blues Picnic was held on June 22, 2003, in Warner Park, with 9 hours of free Blues music. A crowd of 500-700 enjoyed the gorgeous setting, Blues music and food on their picnic blankets and lawn chairs.

Since then, our Annual Blues Picnic has grown to an attendance of several thousand people. Great Blues music, family & friends, a great selection of food, dancing, beer, prize and 50/50 cash raffles and Blues-related merchandise have kept this event a very successful community gathering.

The “Blues Kids”, a youth Blues harmonica and drum group, has been a staple Outreach Blues Education Program at the Blues Picnic. The kids have worked with Joe Nosek and Oscar Wilson of the Cash Box Kings and Joey B. Banks of the Black Star Drum Line Performance Group. Backing up the kids, the Cash Box Kings have been regulars of our picnic. Joe and Oscar have taught area kids Blues songs and harmonica at Madison neighborhood centers. Joey B. Banks has built up the drumming skills of the kids from the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County as well as his performance group.

Food drives for local pantries have also been incorporated into the Blues Picnic and picnic sales have benefited local community organizations.

Getting Youth Involved

  • With valuable support from the Dane Arts, MBS sponsors a “Blues Kids” harmonica education program with Joe Nosek and Oscar Wilson of the Cash Box Kings and Joey B. Banks of the Black Star Drum Line Performance Group.

  • MBS has worked with several Madison neighborhood centers to host the “Blues Kids” groups including:

  • Over the years, MBS and these great groups have substantially expanded the program including Blues history and appreciation, harmonica and drum playing, song writing, and vocal training.

  • The MAMA’S (Madison Area Music Awards), as part of their mission to promote music education for Madison’s kids, has also provided support for the “Blues Kids” programming. With the funding help from the MAMA’S, the “Blues Kids” performed at the National Night Out Event at Penn Park, attended by most of the highest-level African-American community leaders making a significant impact in the recognition of Blues Music in our community.

  • The “Blues Kids” annual performance at our Blues Picnic has grown to a large group up on stage regularly playing with the Cash Box Kings. Family and friends in the Blues Picnic audience make the experience a major highlight of the event.

  • Working with the “Hands Across South Madison” grant program of the Town of Madison and the South Metropolitan Planning Council, MBS also sponsored a “South Madison Blues Kids” program in 2008 where the kids performed at a neighborhood senior center and then at a community concert at Penn Park.

  • With terrific support from the staff at Gompers Elementary School, MBS coordinated an April 2004 Blues in the Schools (BITS) program for the kids at the school featuring Reverend Charlie Edmonds. This program connected classes in art, history, and reading in the library to teach the history and sounds of the Blues to a very eager school audience.

Get to Know Your Local Musicians

MBS co-sponsors Blues performances and education programs at the The Wisconsin Historical Museum at 30 N. Carroll Street on Madison’s Capitol Square. These great programs run on Friday nights during September and October and expose visitors to our area’s great local Blues musicians. The audience learns how the history of the Blues developed over the years culminating in the music of today including Rock, Country, Jazz and more. As the musicians relate their own personal Blues history, the music really comes alive in the hearts and minds of the audience.

Donations of Blues-related Materials

Every year, MBS donates funds to the Madison Public Library for the purchase of Blues-related materials. Examples include the “2003 Year of the Blues” DVD & CD series, “The Blues  Project ” DVD & VHS film, “The Blues” DVD box set, “A Musical Journey” (a 5 CD Deluxe box set), “Best of the Blues” (a 21 single CD Compilation) and the “Wattstax” concert documentary film and CD as well as many other films, books, magazines and Blues recordings.

Working with library staff, MBS has been able to identify places in the library materials where additions are needed. Blues magazines in the periodicals sections of many local libraries catch the eye of the patrons and paging through them plants a seed of interest. Following up by checking out and listening to the music as well as reading books and watching DVD’s exposes many Madison area folks to our great American musical traditions.

In the fall of 2010, the Goodman South Madison Library held it’s Grand Opening in their new building, offering great library resources to the South Madison area. MBS wanted to help out so, in addition to our annual contribution, we provided some music with an acoustic blues performance by Cliff Frederiksen. All who attended enjoyed the sound of the Blues in the air.


Blues Music at Community Events

MBS has sponsored and promoted many local Blues bands by arranging performances at numerous community events. This exposure really makes a difference for up and coming bands as more and more folks get to know them. MBS is privileged to have so many fine musicians in our area to choose from. Be sure to check out our Bands Page to see what our area has to offer.

MBS is pleased to have offered our help to get Blues Bands playing at these great community events. Working with the organizers of these events makes connections that lead to more and more exposure for Blues music and our local musicians.

  • Willy Street Fair – a Madison tradition drawing thousands to the Williamson Street area

  • Orton Park Festival – food drink and fun at Madison’s beautiful Orton Park

  • WORT Block Party – the local community comes out to party in the two blocks around the radio station

  • Sun Prairie Blues Fest – a great local annual event boosts Blues music with the fantastic deal of 10 hours for 10 bucks!

Community Fundraising

MBS brings new Blues sounds to its fundraisers and supports organizations that support our community.

  • In January, 2006, MBS sponsored a show at the Harmony Bar with Hal Reed and the Mob and were able to send $1,900 to Tipitina Foundation for Hurricane Katrina relief. Folks who lost their homes and all their possessions, including many New Orleans area musicians, got much needed relief from this campaign.

  • Bringing in Deb Seitz & The Swank Daddys in January 2007 for the “Wild Women of the Blues” event, MBS raised more than $1,200.00 for Family Enhancement. This organization partners with parents in their efforts to nurture, protect and teach their children successful skills and community values.

  • As part of their support for Madison area youth, MBS makes regular donations to the MAMA’S(Madison Area Music Awards) to get instruments into the hands of schoolchildren.

  • The 7th Annual Wild Women in 2014 brought in Peaches Staten and the Groove Shakers benefiting Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) in Dane County. This organization has been providing help to those in need for many years now. Their new facility provides shelter and support for the victims of this difficult and continuing problem in our community.

Wild Women of the Blues

MBS has held several WILD WOMEN events to promote women in the Blues as well as increasing awareness of women’s issues. These great events brought outstanding female Blues Artists to celebrate the spirit of women and really show what they can do.

Each WILD WOMEN event has had its own character and really brought out the spirit and energy that women bring to the Blues. Check out these Wild Women who made these events unique.

Wisconsin Blues Challenge

On April 15, 2007, MBS held the 1st Wisconsin Blues Challenge. The winning Blues band, Bobby Bryan and the Original Downtown Players, was awarded a commendation from Governor Doyle and went to Memphis at the end of January, 2008 to represent Wisconsin in the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge.

This annual contest has gotten careers rolling for many Blues musicians over the years. Past participants include Eden Brent, Michael Burks, Sean Carney, Tommy Castro, the late Sean Costello, Albert Cummings, Diunna Greenleaf, Zac Harmon, Homemade Jamz Blues Band, Jason Ricci, Matthew Skoller, Super Chikan, Susan Tedeschi, Watermelon Slim and many more. With MBS initiating this event in Wisconsin, more area Blues Challenges have been held sending deserving artists to Memphis and more and more Wisconsin Blues musicians are getting well deserved exposure.


Madison was Luther’s home for music and enjoying life

The Blues community lost Luther Allison in 1997. On August 14, 2004, MBS helped sponsor the Luther Allison Madison Memorial Dedication. The memorial is composed of 5 park benches and a plaque in Brittingham Park, one of Luther’s favorite fishing spots. Located in the S. Park Street corner of the park, the Memorial was erected to honor Luther & his connection to the Madison area community and music scene. A very special guest at the dedication was Bernard Allison, Luther’s son.

Luther’s Memorial would not have been possible without the initial 1998 efforts of a dedicated group of family and friends, the Luther Allison Madison Memorial Project Committee including Vera Crowell, David Day, Tom Earley, Laura Gallagher, Pat Gallagher, Dave Leucinger, Andy Linderman, Mark Munz, Marc Pesselman, Chuck Prindeville, John Roussos, Tom Sobel, Steve Sperling and Rocky Brown. We are forever grateful for their initiation of this project.

Luther always gave his all, both on and off stage. The Madison Blues Society is pleased that we could help bring about the completion of this Memorial, to honor the man and his music.

“Leave Your Ego. Play the Music. Love the People.”
– Luther Allison